HEAD COACH DAVID CULLEY
You've been through a lot of roster cut deadlines, but this is your first as head coach. Is it tough?
"Oh, it's tough. And what makes it even tougher is when you've had the competition that we've had with all the new players here. The depth has been really good. It becomes even tougher because we're going to end up having to cut some guys who we feel like are good enough to play for us. But because of the numbers game, you've got to make those moves."
How does the ability to move OT Tytus Howard outside and knowing his familiarity with the tackle position affect your calculations on the offensive line if OL Marcus Cannon is not ready?
"It helps us from the standpoint of knowing he can outside because of his versatility, because some of the other guys basically as a guard, tackle or center, but with his versatility, that allows us when you're sitting down and making decisions on guys that maybe can only play one position or maybe they're more comfortable playing that one position, having guys like him and some of the other guys who have switched all during training camp, really helps in determining. That's a factor in determining some of the other guys that you end up keeping or you don't keep."
When you have as many players who are versatile like that, does that allow you to the reduce the number there?
"I think it just has something more to do with the versatility of that particular player. We just happen to have some players who have been able to do that. It's not so much that's what you plan on doing, it's the fact that they just happen to be versatile enough to do that. I've been on teams where you didn't have that."
Where do things stand with QB Deshaun Watson?
"There's really no update on that."
Speaking of the roster and making final cuts, how do you feel about him being a part of this team moving forward?
"There's no update on that, and I'm going to leave it at that."
Is there anything you can share with us right now about your roster reductions?
"No, we're going through that right now. Today, tomorrow, right after practice, we'll sit down and we'll go over those things again. We kind of got a little idea of how things may shake out, but right now, we're still going through the process."
As you get closer to having 53 players, what do you think of the team you all have put together?
"I think that the versatility of the guys that we've had here, with the depth that we've had here, makes it so much easier on us in being able to do that. Again, that's also what makes it hard too – letting some guys go because we feel like there's been good competition and guys are close, but depending on injuries and those kinds of things has a lot to do with that also."
What do you think of your team?
"Oh, I'm looking forward to this team. I like what this team has done during training camp and during the preseason games. Other than the last game of us turning the ball over so much, I've really felt good about this football team."
You mentioned having to cut players who you could see playing well for the team. Does having players like Watson who may not play for you take up a roster spot make those roster cuts even harder?
"It makes it hard on all of the guys simply because of the competition that we've had. With the competition that we've had, just knowing that you're going to end up having guys not make this team who probably deserve to make this team. Or if they don't make this team, they'll make some other team, but just the competition makes it tough. To me, I've always felt like, places that I've been in the past when rosters were getting cut down, sometimes it's been a lot easier, simply because the competition wasn't quite as good, and you kind of knew. But for this offseason, for me being the head coach here, it's been tough simply because we've got a bunch of guys on this football team who have come from other places who have come in here and done what we wanted them to do, and feel comfortable about them making this team."
Do you feel like you've had enough time to make those evaluations?
"The three preseason games have been invaluable for us. Without them, I think it would have been a lot tougher for us."
In making your decisions, will Watson take up a roster spot?
"Again, we're day-to-day with those things."
You have several players from Louisiana on the roster, have you had a chance to check in with them given everything that is going on there?
"None of the guys have reported any families or anybody is having any issues of that kind of thing. When you talk to our players about it, those guys say, 'Listen, we know that's part of living down there. That's part of it. And when it comes, people from the outside take it a lot worse than we do.'"
Is LB Zach Cunningham back today?
When reviewing film, what were some of the issues that contributed to turnovers in the last preseason game?
"Being careless with the ball. I just know, for example, with the one fumble that Tyrod (Taylor) had – ball security was the deal there. He should have had two hands on the ball when he came out of the pocket, he only had one hand on the ball, which Pep (Hamilton) teaches them all the time to do. A couple of the INTs that we had there were a little miscommunication with the quarterback and the receiver on those, being a little late or a little short on a route. Those things are correctable. That's what is encouraging about it. It wasn't something that they did, it was what we didn't do fundamentally that was the frustrating thing about the turnovers."
Can you give an update on CB Bradley Roby and WR Andre Roberts and their status for the first game?
"Bradley won't play in the first game, but Bradley's fine. Andre is progressing fine right now. He's fine, and we feel like he'll be ready for the first game."
What was Roby's status for the last preseason game?
"He had a slight concussion in practice prior to that, and we didn't want to take a chance on him with that."
CB Vernon Hargreaves started all 16 games last year. Do you feel comfortable with him starting with Roby out?
"We feel comfortable with whoever ends up getting that starting job out there in place of Bradley. That cornerback position has been a good position for us. Obviously, there's not a lot of depth there now because of some of the injuries, but we feel comfortable that whoever we put back there will be good."
With two weeks until the first regular season game, how critical is it for the passing offense to use these two weeks to get the most out of Taylor and the receivers to get ready for the Jacksonville game?
"It's very important because of the consistency and the fact that we don't have a preseason game and that we will get to practice all week. It's important for us to just be able to get to know each other a little bit better. And we'll spend this week concentrating on ourselves. We aren't really thinking about Jacksonville down the road. Right now, this week is about us as Texans getting better."
Looking at the tight end group, did anyone stick out in terms of the offense you want?
"It's been a very consistent group, and I think the very encouraging thing about why we were able to run the ball so well this last ball game was because of those guys, the versatility that they've had. We went into that game wanting to make a conscious effort of doing that. We use Pharaoh (Brown) in the back field as a fullback at times, used Antony (Auclair) the same way. Same thing with Jordan (Akins) It's been comforting to know that we know that we want to be able to have balance running the football when we want to run the football. As I said earlier, those guys are a big part of that. This past weekend I think that showed.
Can you talk about the DE Shaq Lawson trade?
"We made that decision simply because, we keep the best players that we feel like are playing good for us at this time. Shaq happened to be in a position group with a lot of depth. When we make decisions on players, we make decisions on who we feel like is playing the best at that time. We felt like those other guys were playing the best at that time. It was a situation where we could make our team better by making that trade, and it just happened to be Shaq."
RB MARK INGRAM II
How much have you tried to imprint on this team with your personality outside of being a running back?
"I'm just being myself around my teammates, I'm not really doing anything extra, I'm just trying to be myself. Just spread energy, spread positivity and just work my butt off and be the best teammate I can be. I've been trying to not doing anything crazy just trying to know my teammates, trying to know my coaches, everyone around the building and just be myself."
Does that help when there is so much emphasis on the team? Does that help the mood and the energy around the building?
"I would like to think so. I would like to think when you bring positive energy and positive thoughts that becomes contagious. It's easy to be negative, it's easy to have doubts and think about things when it's tough and when it's rough but if you could just be positive and spread that, and spread successes and failures and work hard, it kind of helps."
As a veteran player, what do you think of the 17-game season and more time between the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season?
"I guess we will see. I think 17 games is new to all of us. It wasn't something that you were always rooting for with an extra game, but we will take advantage of it with the circumstances that are given. We have to play 17 games, so you have to be at your best for 17 games plus. We will see how it works and get a little extra time now to get off. We will be working this week, improving and getting better and hopefully we will be able to recover and have a little reset button before we start preparing for week one so we will be doing that."
You've been around a lot of running backs, what do you think about RB Scottie Phillips?
"Man, Scottie is a baller. I told him to keep doing his thing, keep running the rock, keep running out the back field and catching the rock, picking up pass protection. He's a back that can do a lot of things so I've told him to keep working on his craft and I think he's going to be a good player, a good running back in this league for a long time. I think he can have a long career with his skillset and his mindset, so I am a Scottie Phillips fan."
Have you been keeping a close eye on New Orleans?
"Of Course. Heart goes out to everyone in Louisiana, especially New Orleans which was home to me for my first eight years of my career, helped me grow as a man. I met my wife there, three of my children were born there and obviously eight great years in New Orleans. Thinking about them and thoughts and prayers are with them. I know that community is strong and I know they will fight through this. They have been through so much over the years. I know the devastation and all of that through the hurricanes but all the people of New Orleans and all the people of Louisiana are very strong, very resilient and I know they will get through this strong and with the help of leaders of the community, everybody loves New Orleans so anyway that people can give a helping hand, I'm sure that they are and they will and make sure that community is as strong and as tight as ever."
Are you planning on getting involved with a relief effort, especially with your relationship with Cam Jordan?
"Yeah, me and Cam were talking about it yesterday. Obviously, I'm not as in tuned with everything that's going on right now, so I get a lot of my information from him or scrolling through the news myself. Anyway I can, I'm sure he is going to be a part of many of the relief efforts, any way I could partner with him, partner with any of my former teammates, partner with friends and family that I have there now, I'll be there because you know I love Louisiana. They always had my back when I was there and I will have their back the same way."
What about your experience in Baltimore with Head Coach David Culley wanted you to be a part of his first team where he is the head coach?
"He's always been the same guy to me. He's always been consistent about who he is and what he stands for and he's always been encouraging to me in Baltimore even in 2019 when I had my Pro Bowl year and in 2020 when it wasn't the best year but he was always encouraging me and always giving me advice and positive words and I appreciate him for that. He's always been a great coach that puts his players in a position, prepares his players to have success and I know that he would love his players and do the same thing as a head coach. Obviously, they called me and it was a good situation for me, good opportunity for me to continue playing the game I love and I feel like I could do it at a high level. Just a great opportunity and appreciate Coach Culley, Nick (Caserio) and everybody who thought about bringing me in"
How do you think his personality fits the dynamic of this team with there being so many new players that are veteran guys?
"I think it's great because he is going to treat you like a man and he's going to expect that in return. It's a two-way street with the communication. It's an open door policy even when his door is closed, you can knock on it and talk to him and he is going to be transparent and real with you and as a man and a pro, you respect that and appreciate that. You have to be able to be accountable and available and take advantage of being a professional and let him handle you like that because he will treat you like a man, be honest with you, be fourth right with you and you just have to handle it like a pro."
How much closer do you feel to being the 2019 Mark Ingram?
"I never felt like that version has left me. I had limited opportunities last year obviously, I had a few injuries, I had COVID thing just different things that attributed to that year and all. I think that having that year and having that offseason where I was able to go into it healthy with no injuries or ailments I think that was huge in being able to train and prepare myself to have a great season, having a good training camp and feeling good in preseason. Obviously, lots of things to work on, lots of things to improve on and get better at but I don't feel any different than I did in that Pro Bowl year in 2019. I feel like I'm better, feel like I'm more experienced, feel like the game is smoother for me coming to me better just got to go out there and prove and go out there and stay healthy and go out there and be productive and do everything I can to help the team find success."
Head Coach David Culley said you guys didn't feel like you are up to the running game standard, what would you say is the improvement you guys have made over the course of training camp and the preseason?
"We made some good strides in our run game and I mean we almost ran for almost over 200 in the last game. Obviously, we didn't keep the ball moving like we wanted, we didn't punch the ball in the end zone like we wanted, we turned the ball over those are all things that keep you from winning football games. Obviously, we have to sustain drives, convert on third downs, take care of the football and be able to have touchdowns not field goals in the red zone. All those things are things you can improve on and the execution of every single play, all 11 guys making sure they are doing their job, executing their job at a high level that can improve and we just have to continue to work on that and that's what we will be working on going into week 1.
How much of a help has WR Brandin Cooks been, with you guys having spent time together on the Saints?
"Anytime you go somewhere new familiarity is great and Brandin Cooks, that's my dog man, since he was a rookie in New Orleans, we played three years there together. He was my brother there and he's been my brother ever since. Been following him when he went to New England, when he went to the Rams and when he came here. Now I have the opportunity to be his teammate again and you know it's always good to have a brother. He's in the locker room with me, I can ask him questions about anything, family, food, treatment, whatever it may be, he can give me insight and it's always good to have family around.",
RB DAVID JOHNSON
What do you feel about your performance the other night?
"It felt good with the opportunity I had. Honestly the offensive line did a great job blocking for me and I felt like I was starting to get a good flow going."
As far as the difference between last year and this year, what is something that stands out to you from camp to preseason?
"Obviously the new faces that's probably the biggest thing. Everyone is ready to work, everyone is trying to prove their worth, we have a lot of guys on one-year deals so everyone is trying to do everything they can to prolong their career. I feel like it's going to help out. We have so many guys that are so talented at each position, we have depth at each position to where it's making each other better and especially our o-line coach he is emphasizing plus two every time we get stood up, plus two after the first contact and offensive coordinator Tim Kelly is emphasizing running the ball. I feel like for me, it's going to be really crucial to run the ball but also be utilized as a receiver, obviously blocking for Tyrod (Taylor) and doing everything I can."
What have you learned about with talking to RB Mark Ingram and Head Coach David Culley about their time in Baltimore and what they want to do with the run game and some of their experiences?
"They want to run the ball. You know Mark is a downhill and a shifty running back and Culley, every time we talk about our offensive philosophy it's about running the ball. There is nothing more demoralizing on a defense then running the ball and pounding the rocks. That's all that they preach and are happy for."
Was that kind of a day one thing or have you noticed that slowly getting implemented over time?"That was a day one thing. Honestly when I first talked to (David) Culley that was the first thing he talked about, his philosophy that he wanted to implement running the ball more."
You mentioned the roster competition, compared to other teams that you have been a part of, how does that manifest itself day to day? What are some of the little things you notice that kind of make a difference when so many guys are on one-year deals?
"For me I feel like there isn't as many mistakes, it doesn't feel like that many guys are having to learn the play book or learn how to be a professional. There's not a lot of mental loaves I guess and everyone is really making each other better. We always are communicating with each other. We've all played, me, Phil (Lindsay), and Mark (Ingram) have all played and done well in this league to where we are talking to each other, getting tips from each other and helping out each other as much as we can."
Do you think that is because everyone has more at stake or because this is more of a veteran team?
"Everyone has more at stake in terms of what?
In terms of everybody being on one-year contacts, do you think people are more attentive and they can't risk having a bad day or more because everyone has been around and there is so many veterans?
"I think it's more of everybody being around and everybody being veterans and honestly it's not just that. As much as we say don't listen to everyone outside but everyone has us dead last in this league so it's really just proving the nay-sayers wrong. We talk about all the time that a lot of us have been on winning teams and that we want to get back to that type of team and with us being three veteran guys, we obviously want the opportunity to do as much as we can for the offense and I think that is going to happen."
Does that outside noise seem harder to ignore this year with this team compared to others you have been a part of?
"No not for me because I've had a lot of outside noise that last couple of years. Honestly, this is not even bad to me. I've been trained and have just gotten used to ignoring it for the most part."
What's your evaluation of this offensive line and what do you think they can do to improve the run game?
"I think it's been great. They are a real physical offensive line. The biggest thing with them is most of them are veterans and being able to play together and knowing each other's strengths and knowing how to play as a unit. I think that's the biggest thing and like I said with this offensive coordinator and our offensive line coach, the way they really hone in on trying to let the guys know we are going to run the ball, we are going to be to be physical running the ball and we are going to really implement really having that run game established each and every game."
You've had success in the league, obviously you were traded here last year, with this last preseason game did you feel like you needed to kind of show something, kind of put your stamp on the preseason and camp to ensure your spot on the team?
"I feel like every game. Honestly every game and every practice is that way. It's a day to day evaluation. Coaches are always looking at us and what we are doing, especially us as running backs, each layer everyone is being evaluated. Just because it's the last preseason game, I felt like it's the same as every other preseason game whenever I have my opportunities I'm going to try to make the most out of it. Honestly I just had more opportunities this game to run the ball this game than other previous games."
You feel like you have to go out there to prove it every game?
"Yeah I feel like for me that's been the way every time I play football since I was a little kid, honestly I had success but after that year with the injuries I feel like I constantly have to prove myself that I'm ready to be an impact player, a play maker for the team and try to really have confidence in the coaches to put me in."
What are your internal thoughts about the team and what they have done so far?
"I feel like we have a great team man. I feel like a lot of people are just looking over our us because of all the outside noise that's going on and everything that has been going on the past couple of years with the trades and everything. I feel like we definitely have a good team and we are definitely going to surprise people once the season comes."
How would you describe your role in the offense has changed since you've first arrived here?
"I think it's going to be more of we are going to rotate, more of a passing running back but also going to be used as a traditional running back like you saw last game. I think the biggest thing is they are going to try to make everyone more fresh with the running back group and let everybody get the opportunity to help out the offense."
DL DeMARCUS WALKER
Now that training camp is over, what are your feelings about this team going into the season?
"Just take it one week at a time. Just got to get better in the details and small areas and help each other get better every single day."
With a lot of decisions being made, how are you handling that with the team and the locker room?
"I mean, it's a business. Every year you're in the league you feel like you get numb to it, but when you start asking, you start seeing, it gets you every year. So it's a business, just like I said."
Does it feel any different this year with this team compared to other teams you've been on, with the unique composition of the team with guys on so many one-year contracts?
"Yeah, with so many new guys and just getting to know one another, it's a pretty big difference this year. There's a lot of competition in every position, damn near. So, Nick (Caserio) definitely brought a lot of guys in and we've just got to spend as much time as we can as teammates and just stay in touch."
How much do you feel like your preseason performance helps you, and how important was that to you?
"It's definitely important because at the end of the day you've got to make plays in football. That's how you make the team, that's how you get paid, that's how you become a franchise player, it's making plays. That was the biggest thing. And then being six days behind with the whole COVID and everything, pneumonia that I had, I had to hit the ground running with learning the details, the technique. So, when Green Bay, the Cowboys, the Bucs, I had to make the most out of my opportunities."
How much did being put on the Reserve/COVID-19 list physically set you back?
"To be honest with you, I was able to get my conditioning test done in, I think like five days. So that was actually shocking to me, because I lost like seven pounds from pneumonia. Through the whole working in the offseason, obviously it shows that anything that's for me was for me."
When it came to your personal evaluation to help this team, who were you talking most to? Was it Head Coach David Culley, General Manager Nick Caserio, who did you talk most with?
"I was just talking more with Coach Lovie and Coach King, just talking with those coaches like, 'What can I get better here?' Just being coachable. That's the thing that I want to say I was like trying to see where I'm at, because I'm going into year five. I know what it takes to make a team. It's just like, 'Alright, well help me get there then. If you want this out of me, just help me.' And if the right coaches are put in place to help me get there then the sky's the limit."
How stressful was this time trying to make the team?
"I wouldn't say it's stressful."
What's the right word?
"I would just say you've got to -- I don't even know if I made the team yet. You just got to control what you can control. I would say it's just time-consuming. You're just watching the clock, you're waiting. I don't know. And then also just being with a different team, seeing how they do things different around here, that was a little off. Because I was used to things going this way, but it wasn't, it was going this way. All you can do is just control what you can control."
What's the biggest thing that this team does differently compared to other teams?
"I mean, I feel like everybody as a club has their own way of doing things. Me personally, I like how you get more of a voice and being able to communicate. And me personally, they let me be myself. I feel like, get to know someone for yourself before you try to place any judgment on them. I felt like everybody in this organization, from 'Ro' (Director of Athletic Training and Physical Therapy / Head Athletic Trainer Roland Ramirez), to Nick (Caserio), to Coach Lovie, to Coach King, everybody has got to know me for themselves and have their own story about me."
When you say you get to have a voice, what do you mean?
"For example, with OTAs, I felt like how that was handled compared to other spots that I was talking to other players and everything. We were more hands-on and talking to Coach Culley how we wanted that to go about. Just got to continue growing that chemistry and that bond to be able to take this place where we want it to go."
As a player, how much do you appreciate your voice heard and talking to a coaching staff?
"Obviously you cherish that because it's not a strap-and-play type of time no more. That era is over with. I feel like just not only in life but with this job too, people have a voice, you have a platform, everybody has a platform in their hand. Everybody has freedom to say whatever they want. So, I feel like in a work area if it's the right thing, for the best for everybody, you should have your voice be heard."
How deep is this defensive front in your estimation?
"You mean like depth-wise? Pretty deep. Yeah, man, pretty deep. A lot of good quality guys, good talented guys put together. I feel like when you have it like that you get the best out of everyone. If you have so many great guys, whoever puts in that time and is not scared of that competition and ultimately believes in themselves, it should be a good year."